April 2017 - BICYCLING
Goal Setting for Success
By Dave Kraus
Early spring in Upstate NY is the time many cyclists dust off their road or mountain bikes, give them a tune-up, and start thinking about the season ahead. What rides haven’t been done yet that I need to put on the calendar? Which past ones were so enjoyable I want to do them again? And perhaps the most popular question: How can I improve this year?
Whether you’re a cyclist or other athlete, it’s time to set some goals. But that’s often far easier to say than to do. It’s important to keep in mind the elements of successful goal setting, and how to tailor goals to your own unique desires and abilities.
SET THE RIGHT GOAL
“A goal should be realistic, measurable and time-oriented,” says Joe Friel, who has trained endurance athletes since 1980 and is the author of 10 books, including the popular Cyclist’s Training Bible. By realistic, he means the goal should stretch your abilities but still be achievable.
“If you set a goal at the start of the season and know you can achieve it even before setting out to train for it, then it wasn’t much of a goal, was it?”
Joel also cautions against confusing goals with wishes. Riding your first century this season is a goal. Riding a century every weekend this season is a wish. A goal needs to be personally challenging, and while someone else may suggest a goal to you, you must make the final decision of what is a reasonable goal and not just a wish.
COMMIT TO THE GOAL
For most cyclists, committing to a plan to reach their goal involves committing the effort and time needed to follow their plan for reaching it. Achievement of your goal is closely connected to how much commitment you are willing to make, according to Capital Region cycling coach, Andy Ruiz. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for over 30 years, and now runs his own coaching practice, Ruiz Racing.
He says that considering a prospective client’s commitment and available time are both vitally important in his coaching business. It’s a question that you must ask yourself honestly before starting out toward your chosen goal, he adds.
“It’s very important that upfront I speak with a client on what goals they have – what their time is like, what their lifestyle is like. If they’re not 100% willing to commit, then they’re just setting themselves up for failure, and I don’t know if I want to get in that coaching relationship.”
MAKE A PLAN
Once you have a goal, Joel says, the next step is to decide how you will get there. It’s time to make a training plan and put it into action. That usually calls for increasing the training load on a schedule while keeping it realistic. If you’ve never followed a training plan before, then you should talk with someone who has the experience to help you succeed. That could be a paid coach, or riders in your own club, or group of friends who have already succeeded in their own goals.
Andy, meanwhile, stresses the importance of keeping in mind hours vs. intensity as you plan your training. He feels time is the real key to remember for most recreational cyclists, who most often will be setting goals based on riding more hours, and not adding enough intensity or recovery. It’s easy to end up overtraining.
“Time is really the way to go because your body doesn’t really know miles. It knows intensity and time,” he says.
STICK TO YOUR PLAN
Once you do have a training plan to reach your goal, it makes your progress measurable. Today there are more ways than ever to record, manage and analyze your training, including Strava and various training websites, in addition to the tried and true written training diary.
Andy feels that creating a training path to your goal – and staying on that path – are crucial ingredients for achievement.
“If you’re going to do it yourself, then you have to be true to yourself. Make a plan and try your best to follow it. If the plan calls for endurance that day, don’t go out and ride yourself into the ground with your friends.”
Be accountable to your goals by letting your friends, family, and riding buddies know what your goal is. Their positive support and encouragement can help you stay on track with your plan.
Joel suggests linking goals to organized events to help enforce accountability, and enlisting a training partner if possible.
“A training partner is the best motivator there is for getting to the starting line and then the finish line,” he says, “and choosing an organized century ride is likely to keep you on schedule. Doing a self-administered, non-organized century is a sure bet to result in a failed goal from constant rescheduling of your goal ride.”
REWARD YOURSELF FOR VICTORY
Rewards for achieving both sub-goals and your ultimate goal can be an important motivator. Did you achieve or exceed your mileage, training time, or speed goals for this week’s training segment? Then a massage session or that extra beer with your personal supporters can be particularly satisfying.
For completing that weeklong tour, winning the race, or flying across the finish line with more energy than you ever thought you’d have, a more substantial reward can help get you there – and contribute to your future achievements. New bike, anyone?
But the most satisfying reward may be the knowledge that you set the right goal, made the right plan, stuck to it, and are now standing atop your own personal podium. Congratulations!
> Joe Friel is active in business as a founder of Training Peaks (trainingpeaks.com), a web-based software company, and TrainingBible Coaching (trainingbible.com). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
> Andy Ruiz is a Capital Region-based USA Cycling certified cycling coach who has been a cyclist and racer for over 30 years. Reach him at email@example.com.
Dave Kraus (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Schenectady is a longtime cyclist, photographer and journalist. Visit his website at krausgrafik.com.